The right to a trial by jury is fundamental to our legal system. In an east Texas car accident lawsuit, the possibility of a jury determining fault and assessing the amount of damages due to an injured person can be a strong encouragement for negligent drivers and their insurers to settle a case out of court.
Unfortunately, juries sometimes enter verdicts that are not at all what one party or the other expected. Although both the trial court and the appellate courts have some authority to set aside a verdict, juries are afforded a great deal of latitude in most situations.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case (No. 03-17-00510-CV; Texas Court of Appeals), the plaintiffs were the parents of a minor who was allegedly injured when the defendant driver backed into the family’s car. The case was tried to a jury, which found that the defendant’s negligence was not a proximate cause of the collision and entered a take-nothing judgment on the plaintiffs’ claim for damages sustained in the crash.
The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s entry of judgment upon the jury’s verdict, arguing that the factual evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict and that the trial court should have granted a directed verdict on the issue of the son’s alleged contributory negligence.
Resolution of the Issues
The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. With regard to the plaintiffs’ attack on the factual sufficiency of the evidence, the appellate court reiterated the rule that a jury’s verdict may only be set aside if it is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. The reviewing court may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the trier of fact, nor may it render an opinion on the credibility of the witnesses. Since the jury could reasonably have believed that the defendant stopped his vehicle, checked his sideview mirrors, and, believing nothing was behind him, backed up a short distance at a slow speed, the court was unwilling to set aside the jury’s decision because it could not say that the jury’s failure to find negligence by the defendant was clearly wrong or manifestly unjust.
As to the plaintiffs’ argument concerning the inclusion of a jury instruction regarding the son’s negligence, the court found that, at most, this was a harmless error because the jury did not find that the son’s negligence was a proximate cause of the collision.
Have a Question for an East Texas Trial Attorney?
If you or a family member has been hurt in a crash, the east Texas car accident firm of Earl Drott Law is here to help. With 34 years of experience, we will work hard to get a favorable settlement or judgment in your case. We offer a complimentary case review. To take advantage of this opportunity to discuss your Tyler or Smith County accident case with a seasoned Texas trial attorney at no cost and with no obligation, call us now at 903-531-9300.
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